What today’s midterm elections mean for women

As you probably know, today marks the midterm elections. Today, millions of Americans will head to the voting booths, and you should be one of them. Why? Though elections on years that we aren’t voting on a new president aren’t nearly as flashy, they’re just as important. Particularly if you happen to be a woman.

The stakes this year are about control of the Senate, but, in a larger sense, they’re also about the state of women’s rights in this country.

Both sides of the political divide have made women’s issues their issues. Democrats continue to uphold their commitment to a woman’s right to choose, while Republicans have combatted their reputation of waging a “war on women” with a renewed vocal commitment to victims of domestic abuse and the Violence Against Women Act. Democrats are focusing on the same issues, but their support is far less historically loaded.

For Republicans, the women’s vote is an especially tricky one to win. In the past four years, there has been a tightening of women’s reproductive freedom, from restricting access to abortion to slashing funding for Planned Parenthood. The Guttmacher Institute noted that in 2011, the year that the new class of the Senate was sworn in, abortion restrictions spiked. The institute counted 1,100 reproductive health and rights provisions introduced by legislatures, 135 of which passed into law; 68% of those provisions restrict abortion access. The result in the polls is that Republicans are trailing Democrats in the double digits in some races when it comes to women voters. 

Another big women’s issue that has come to the forefront in this election is equal pay. In states like Texas, the conversation over issues like the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act have been fierce, with Democrats in support of the Act and many Republicans either evasive on the topic or against the Act altogether The issue, of course, is that women often still make 77 cents per every dollar their male counterparts make. President Obama spoke about the issue as recently as this week saying, “while many women are working hard to support themselves and their families, they’re still facing unfair choices, outdated workplace policies.” His goal was to rally support for Democrats, who see women as a key supporting demographic, prior to the midterms. 

Let’s look a little more closely at the states where Tuesday’s election is particularly crucial in terms of tight races. In Colorado, both the state House and Senate are at risk of shifting from Democrat to Republican. There is also a gubernatorial race there that is currently deadlocked.

In Iowa, Democrats are attempting to hold on to a small majority in the Senate. In Kentucky, the house is also up for grabs. There are also close races in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, New Hampshire, Kansas and North Carolina.

In layman’s terms, what does this all mean? If Republicans gain control of the Senate then there will be a shift in power, over judicial appointments. Not just the Supreme Court, but also the incredibly important lower courts. The way these judges lean holds a big impact on the way this country leans when it comes to issues like affirmative action, gun control and, yes, women’s rights.

This isn’t to say that Republican control is all bad for ladies, but it might affect how family planning services and women related health care options are accessed.

Even if you don’t live in one of these states on the edge, and no matter what your political leanings you should get out there and vote. What’s at stake here is the future of the way women are treated in this country. Your vote means that you have a say, and you should use it. Get out there!

[Image via]